3 key developments from Cubs' victory over Brewers

July 6th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs have struggled to field their full planned rotation group all season due to a variety of health setbacks. Another concerning development arrived Tuesday night, when Kyle Hendricks exited early with a shoulder issue.

Following his departure, Hendricks watched the Cubs pull off an 8-3 comeback win over the Brewers at American Family Field. The bullpen combined for six strong innings -- including Rowan Wick escaping a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth -- and the lineup jolted to life.

"That was huge. That's what I was focused on," Hendricks said. "I felt so bad just putting the team in the bad spot there. ... That was awesome to see. It really picked me up."

Here were three important developments from Tuesday's victory:

1) Hendricks' early exit

There was clear concern about Hendricks early on from manager David Ross, who made a rare mound visit to check on the pitcher in the second inning. Hendricks does not light up the radar gun, but there was a noticeable drop in velocity from the veteran starter.

"I just wanted some honesty, right?" Ross said. "I try to cut out the middle man sometimes. It just makes it a little easier. Look somebody in the eye. Hear their words. Hear the tone of their voice. I felt pretty confident. He's very honest with me. We have that kind of relationship, so I trusted in that."

At one point in the first inning, Hendricks' sinker registered at 83.8 mph after clocking in at 87.3 mph the previous time he featured that pitch. The right-hander saw his pitch speeds tick up by the third inning, but his game average on the sinker (85.7 mph) was down from his season rate (86.5 mph).

Hendricks noted that his right shoulder felt "uncomfortable" since his first warm-up pitch of the night, but he was able to pitch through it. Ross let Hendricks go three innings and 69 pitches, but leaned on the bullpen the rest of the way.

In early June, Hendricks missed 12 days due to a similar issue, and then posted a 3.57 ERA in four starts after the layoff with no flare-ups. The righty said he will undergo an MRI in the coming days to hopefully get to the bottom of the ailment

"Rossy knows me. So he knew. He could see it," Hendricks said. "There was no point in pushing. It's not something that's so bad that's going to get out of control. It's just not great. It's something we definitely want to get checked out and see what it's all about."

2) Suzuki's strong return

After the win, Cubs outfielder Ian Happ let out a slight laugh when asked if he expected Seiya Suzuki to be a little rusty at the plate after returning for this series with the Brewers, following a month-plus stay on the injured list.

"No, have you seen the guy?" Happ said. "He's unbelievable. I expected him to hit balls 12 inches off the inside corner for home runs."

In the fifth inning, Brewers starter Jason Alexander sent a two-seamer tailing far inside to Suzuki, who still got the barrel to the ball. It rocketed out to left field on a line for a two-run home run. The rookie finished with two hits and three RBIs in the game.

Through two games and nine plate appearances, Suzuki has seen 34 pitches and whiffed zero times on 15 swings. His nine balls in play -- one being an inside-the-park homer on Monday -- have had an average exit velocity of 96 mph. He has topped 100 mph on three.

"He looks really comfortable," Ross said. "The timing's back, to me. I think Seiya's looked as good as when he started [in early April]."

3) Ortega's steal of home

One trick the Cubs have had up their sleeves over the past two seasons has been a double-steal play that features a theft of home. Three times since last year, Happ and Rafael Ortega have executed it to perfection.

"It's the best," Happ said.

Happ and Ortega pulled it off twice last year (Aug. 25 against Colorado and Sept. 30 in Pittsburgh) and did so again on Tuesday night. In the sixth, the play unfolded with Happ on first and Ortega at third base.

With lefty Brent Suter on the hill, Happ bolted for second and drew a throw from catcher Victor Caratini. As soon as the catcher released the ball, Ortega sprinted to the plate. Happ stopped short and the Brewers were unable to accurately relay the ball back to Caratini in time.

Ortega's three steals of home are the most of any MLB player since the start of the 2020 season.

"Raffy's so good at that,” Happ said. “He gets that jump and does such a good job reading the catcher. It's not an easy play at third base and he's really, really good at it."